Or, How I Got Dental Implants in Costa Rica, Saved a Bundle, And Learned to Laugh Again.

By Carolyn Kaiser    / August 30, 2006

(As was published on SuddenlySenior.com)

My toothy adventure began last February.

That’s when my dentist gave me final warning: “The only way we can save what little gums you have left is with dental implants. And soon!”

But the cost was prohibitive. I would need at least a dozen implants at between $1,800 and $3,500 each. And that didn’t include teeth. Then, one of our readers wrote about getting implants in Costa Rica for a fraction of the cost. After suffering with ill-fitting dentures for 30 years, I made the decision to travel to Costa Rica and get the implants before my gum line vanished completely.

Carolyn Kaiser beforeThis is the story of that long, interesting and often painful process. February 22nd I arrived in San José. On the 23rd, Dr. Mario Garita, the dentist our reader recommended, placed 13 implants (eight in my top jaw after two bone grafts, five in the bottom jaw) at $850 each. The following day I got a face-lift and laser peel. My plastic surgeon, Dr. Roberto Araya was able to do his work despite the slight swelling.

The initial implant surgery, while not exactly painless, hurt less that I had feared. Dr. Garita used a tiny needle connected to a computer to administer pain medication throughout the three-hour process. The top implants were then stitched closed, the stitches taken out two weeks later after I’d healed enough to fly home. At that time, too, Dr. Garita returned my dentures, now adjusted to fit over the implants. 

Slippage and Sore Spots

At home, I waited for six months while my mouth healed enough to get the crowns placed. Although I visited my dentist here to have the dentures refitted, I dealt with a lot of slippage and sore spots in the interim. And pain. A lot of pain.

August 1st, I flew back to the land of Pura Vida, and was in Dr. Garita’s chair the next day where the process of designing my new $13,000 teeth began. This involved lots of measurements, trying on my new teeth, fitting, refitting and deciding just how I wanted my smile to look.

I returned to his office numerous times during the next two weeks and on August 14th, the day before I flew home, I had a full set of natural-looking teeth, white and shiny. My bite was perfect.

The last thing Dr. Garita said, “Be careful. Don’t bite yourself.” He wasn’t kidding. After not having “real” teeth for so long, the new ones felt way too big.

It was way to difficult not to bite my lip. And way too hard to speak without lisping. For about a month, I wished I could take them out, as they were very painful. But you know, the body heals itself well. Rinsing my mouth with salt water helped the healing process.

Carolyne Kaiser afterYou would think that since the new teeth aren’t genuine, their care would be simple. Not true. I must get my new teeth cleaned every three months. Then once a year my dentist here will remove, clean, and bite-check the teeth. I brush after every meal — a chore I had to relearn — floss over and under the crowns, and WaterPik just before bed.

Was it worth it? The combination of having a complete facelift and laser peel, along with the new, beautiful teeth, gives me a new look as well as a new outlook. I’m proud of my teeth, and enjoy being able to eat comfortably without the embarrassing slippage of ill-fitting dentures. I no longer am doomed to have the taste of denture glue in my mouth 24/7. I found the medical and dental facilities in Costa Rica to be excellent and efficient, with the costs for these services running about one-quarter to one-half of US prices. And I have the loveliest smile in all of Florida. Or so Frank says

Details, details, details.

Dental Implants — A dental implant is a manufactured post designed to create a stable foundation for a natural looking tooth restoration. Placed directly into the jawbone, a dental implant is the closest thing to your natural tooth.

There are two parts to a dental implant, which simulate the strong holding ability of the tooth root. The main part of the dental implant is embedded in the jawbone for an effect that is vastly stronger than dentures are capable of. The second part is a post that protrudes above the jawbone and gum line, to provide a fixed point to attach the tooth restoration that will simulate the crown.

To replace one tooth, a single post is all that is required. For the replacement of multiple teeth, it might be necessary to place several dental implant posts.

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